Maintenance-Driven Safety, Part 2 of 2

In our personal lives, most of us run our household systems to failure: appliances, furnaces, etc., as well as our vehicles, but one vehicle system we do not allow to run to complete failure is braking.  Previous generations ran them so regularly to failure, causing so many deaths, that car manufacturers started putting in a wear bar that begins to squeal when the brake pads are worn to that point.

In addition, our dashboards are full of lights warning us of impending doom, with more added yearly.  As vehicle owners, we cannot take credit for being on top of our brake maintenance; Detroit has ensured the squeal is so bad that anyone will notice impending failure before the vehicle kills someone.

None of us would want a vehicle without sensors for low oil or high temperature.  In industry, some expensive and/or critical apparatus have onboard sensors detecting such things as bearing, oil and winding temperature, but most equipment has to be tested to determine its health.

We recently opened the back of some switchgear with a termination that had heated so badly it bulged the case of the PCB-filled capacitor above it.  With some bad luck, that could have led to a failure and PCB infiltration shutting down a plant of several thousand workers.

In the same way that Detroit has taken the decision for brake changes away from the vehicle owner, a similar path is being set for equipment owners.

As our team was writing CSA Z463, we were all cognizant that running inexpensive, easily replaced, non-critical equipment to failure is a perfectly valid maintenance activity.  Other equipment is well serviced by a regular preventive maintenance combination of cleaning and lubricating.  There is, however, a great deal of equipment that requires predictive maintenance, which is the application of specialized tests to produce results that – when deciphered – help you determine the best course of action.  This knowledge merges into the concept of condition-based maintenance.  When these activities are preceded by a Failure Mode Effects and Criticality Analysis, the resulting process is described as reliability-centred maintenance.

The CSA Z463 team was aware we were creating a document that would make some people feel we were “telling them what to do”, but this is incorrect.  In CSA lexicon, a Guideline is merely that: a guideline.  It is not a standard.  In this guideline – to the best of our combined ability – we have addressed a broad range of equipment from many industries, and provided the owner with a recipe of tests that can be used to diagnose the health of the equipment.  One of the great unknowns is “How often?”, and we have provided guidance on that question too.

But be warned: five years ago, no Canadian safety standard existed that could be used to judge a company’s actions (or inactions) leading up to an electrical injury or fatality.  At some future time, the CSA Z463 guideline will become the CSA Z463 standard.

Check this out from the Criminal Code of Canada:

219. (1) Every one is criminally negligent who

   (a) in doing anything, or

   (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,

Shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

Legal experts with whom I’ve discussed these matters tell me the law is subject to interpretation.  It is not black-and-white whether the death of a worker is caused by a definite lack of maintenance will lead to a criminal code charge or conviction, but do you want to take that chance.

The best way to win a court case is to never go to court in the first place.  Were a company to adopt CSA Z463 into its electrical maintenance best practices, not only would they glean the huge financial reward of doing so, they would also benefit from a safer workplace.  Should an unfortunate incident occur, the company can rest a little easier, knowing it fulfilled its legal and moral duties.